Dinner ideas are a popular topic in pretty much any Facebook parenting group, and mine are no exception. Common themes that tend to come up include tips for picky eaters, quick and easy recipes, and what to do when your kid wants to eat lollipops for every meal (been there).
And, as I was pleasantly reminded this week when a fellow mom posted a dinner ideas request, the answer to all these challenges is ... wait for it ... the simple snack plate. Of the dozens of comments on this mom’s post, I want to say 95 per cent were snack plate suggestions.
“YES,” I thought to myself, as I quartered grapes for my three-year-old’s dinner slack plate. Oh my god, snack plates. What would I do without you?
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Um, sorry, what’s a snack plate?
Don’t apologize. We’re just giving a fancy name to the simplest parenting move: putting a bunch of different stuff on one plate and letting your kid graze. I’ve been making snack plates for my kid’s dinner pretty regularly for over a year, around the time I hit my limit of wiping home-made nutritious meals off the walls.
I call them “special dinner,” and honestly, they’re my kid’s favourite.
What goes in a snack plate?
The beauty of the snack plate is that there are no limits to what can go in the snack plate. I usually try to get something from every food group, with some aspect of what my husband and I are eating on the plate, too. So, last night for instance, I made a creamy chicken pasta (for the adults).
Here’s what I put on my son’s plate: a portion of pasta (but without the dreaded sauce), shredded cheese (for protein), raw cucumber and carrots, and a serving of sliced grapes.
And reader, he acted like I’d just served him a Michelin meal. “Oh, yummy pasta! I love this pasta, mommy! Mmm, grapes! I love special dinner!”
It was pretty much the laziest meal I could have made him, and he ate the entire thing. Oh, I forgot, he also had a fruit popsicle with his dinner. This is the key to kids who only want sweets for meals: serve it as part of the snack plate (as opposed to after). So lollipop kid gets his lollipop, but also eats all the other goodies, too.
And I’ve kind of started transforming all his meals into snack plates, if I’m being honest. Even Christmas dinner got the snack plate treatment: he got a small serving of turkey, some green beans and potatoes, and also a serving of sliced fruit and some cucumber.
It’s very important to make sure nothing on the plate touches, though. They fucking hate that.
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The key is to keep lots of nutritious “snack” foods in the house so you always have snack plate potential on hand.
I keep some low-sodium meatballs in the freezer (my kid loves these more than life, and they heat up in two minutes), a bag of shredded cheese in the dairy drawer, yogurt in the fridge, whole-wheat bread in the house (pro tip: cut it into shapes with cookie cutters), a selection of crackers I know he’ll eat, plenty of fresh fruits and veggies, and ... frozen corn. I dunno, my kid likes frozen corn. I don’t question it.
Any foods you might have in your house can go in your snack plate: pita, naan, lentils, vermicelli, snap peas, hummus, star fruit, whatever.
Anyway, these days, when I am 33 weeks pregnant and have no effs left to give, my son gets snack plates most nights, and he has yet to complain.
But as I learned in that Facebook parenting thread, even snack plates can get fancy! Turns out there are tons of different themes you can try. Here are a few I think look great:
You had us at char-kid.
Get the recipe: The eager teacher
Kid-friendly snack plate lunches
Lunch, dinner, whatever.
Get the recipe: Domestikated life
Greek snack plate
You can easily convert this to a more kid-friendly version with pita bread, hummus, some roasted veggies, and halloumi (kids will love a squeaky cheese!).
Get the recipe: 40 aprons
Japanese snack plate
You know Japan basically invented the snack plate, ie. the bento box, right?
Get the recipe: Tastemade
Indian Thali snack plate
India has also long-mastered the snack plate, also known as Thali.
Get the recipe: Indian veggie delight
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